Performance Golf Training 3: Mid-Iron Distance Control 1

Performance Golf Training 3:

Mid-Iron Distance Control 1

In this video I’ll address a different game issue: determining distances for irons.

As you see from the video, my philosophy is to find the average carry yardage for each iron using a full, normal, comfortable swing. The reason I choose the words “normal” and “comfortable” is because these are swings I can make with confidence.

Here’s what is different about this type of practice: My goal is to develop a swing I can repeat. Even though I am hitting at targets, my goal is not necessarily to hit the targets. Rather, I determined the distance of the target using my range finder, and I use the target as simply a distance marker. When I hit my 10-ball sets with one iron at the target, I make my repeatable swing and then plot (on a piece of paper) how far each shot carries. I mark the carry distance relative to the target.

favirote wedge dispersal pattern

At the end of a 10-ball set I have a dispersal pattern from which I can extract my average distance. I typically draw a rough circle around all the landing spots, make an X through the middle of the circle, and that tells me the average carry distance for that club.

The picture show an example plotting the results for a sand wedge, and two different swings – a full swing and a 3/4 swing. Each grouping represents 10 shots toward a target.

Note from the picture that the full sand wedge shot travels a maximum of about 104 yards and a minimum of about 85 yards. The average, however, is 94 yards.

One of the biggest mistakes made by amateur golfers is Underclubbing  (and you’ll hear this comment from just about every pro who has been paired with an amateur in a ProAm).  When you see a sample diagram like this picture you might understand why underclubbing is so prevalent.

The diagram shows clearly that the golfer CAN hit a sand wedge 104 yards. But it also shows clearly that he only hits this distance 20% to 30% of the time. The farthest distance represents the ideal shot carry distance, and unfortunately too many amateurs pick a club based on hitting that perfect shot. Since the average distance is 94 yards, planning for an ideal shot will leave this golfer – on average – 30 feet short of the hole! He’s not going to make very many of those 30-foot putts.

When selecting a club for a shot this golfer would be far better off planning on hitting his “average” distance. He needs to take into account any trouble long or short of the hole, because he tends to hit just as many short of his average as he does long, and select a club that will get him safely on the green. But plotting the landing pattern and then determining the average carry distance like this example would save this golfer a number of strokes each round.

My goal as I determine my carry distance for my mid-irons is to undergo a similar process. I pick my target to use as a distance marker, then hit my 10-ball set with my 7-, 8-, and 9-irons, making a repeatable swing. I plot where each ball lands, then find the average distance. I repeat the process with a 3/4 swing (for wedges) and a knock-down swing for mid-irons.

It’s a fun process, and the results may surprise you. But I guarantee it will pay big dividends on the course. I hope you’ll give it a shot.


Here are links to the entire High Performance Golf Newsletter Series. If you haven’t seen the videos I recommend you start with the first post on establishing performance baselines. Click the link below to get started, then look for the links at the bottom of each post to continue with the next video:

High Performance Golf: Establishing a Performance Baseline
High Performance Golf: Scorecard Analysis and Setting Priorities
High Performance Golf: Driver Accuracy Practice (part 1)
High Performance Golf: Driver Accuracy Practice (part 2)
High Performance Golf: Determining Mid-Iron Carry Distance

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Newsletter Archive
Consistency – The 5th Key To Better Golf

How To Practice Your Golf Swing Like The Pros
Dr. Glen Albaugh and “Winning The Battle Within”
The Orange Whip Tempo Trainer
Golf Fitness Training with Mike Pedersen

PS – If you enjoyed the article, why not share it with friends and leave a comment below? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

6 Responses

  1. Harvey Kirk says:

    Eric, I truely enjoy watching your videos and reading your newsletters. Everything is fully explained except how can one really learn their club distances when the hitting is taking place at a driving range with range balls that never seem to go the same distance as my game balls. Any suggestions?

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Harvey – Good question regarding range balls vs. regular balls. Yes, it’s true range balls usually don’t go as far as normal golf balls. I don’t think there is much difference, however, with the 9 iron and wedges. Maybe only a yard or two, and if you are that accurate with your yardage control, there’s a Tour that would love to have you. With the longer clubs, where you get more ball compression, there can be a bigger difference. On the range I think the focus is on developing a repeating swing that sends the ball a consistent distance. That distance is going to be pretty close. Then you fine-tune with what you observe on the course.
      When I do playing lessons I have my students calculate the exact yardage they are trying to carry the ball. We’ll use a range finder to shoot the distance to the pin. Then they subtract out an estimate for roll-out. When we get to the green we pace off the distance of the pitch mark on the green to the pin, and see how accurate they are. Over time you’ll get a pretty good feel for how far you carry your shots with each club.

  2. Ruben Q. Yabut says:

    This is as detailed and clear a discourse on the thought you want to impart to your audience as I have ever heard. Thank you very much.
    You see, Eric, I have this problem on ascertaining the carry distance of my clubs. It seemed to me that everyone of my clubs, from the 8-iron to to the driver, carry almost the same distance. I mean, the carry of my driver is not much more than.20 yards farther than my 8-iron. I’ve asked several pros about this problem but not one of them could find the fault in my swing. I’ve been told my swing is above average technically and have had kudos for smoothness.
    I’ll be practicing what you proposed here but could you give some hints on how to correct my problem?

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Ruben – Thanks! Glad you are getting some value from the posts! As for your question on distances with your clubs, whenever I see an issue like yours the usual issue is swing speed: in other words, you may not be generating enough swing speed to have much difference between club distances. The basic solution for this is to learn to swing faster. That’s one of the reasons I developed the 5 Keys To Distance training program – to help with swing speed. I’d suggest practicing swinging as fast as you can and learning to get your swing speed up. The other potential explanation could be your impact position, where your hands are behind the ball at impact (alternatively explained as the clubhead has already passed your hands prior to impact). This could be symptomatic of a number of issues, usually related to lack of core rotation toward the target, which causes early release. For this you’d have to watch a video and see where you are losing lag in the downswing. For help with this one, watch my distance training videos on the site. Do a little investigating, and then come back and leave another comment here on the site with what you have learned. Cheers!

  3. John B says:

    I like this a lot and try to follow it…… but …. (there is always one isn’t there) in practical terms how do you measure the landing/carry distance on a busy driving range or practice area?

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi John – Good question on measuring distances. I have a range finder that I use to find the distance to a landmark like a flag or other target on the range. I also then shoot the yardage to some object (sometimes another golf ball) 10 yards in front and 10 yards in back of the target. Then I watch where each ball lands relative to my yardage markers. At our range I set up orange pylon road cones at 10-yard intervals for my students, starting at 40 yards and out to about 130 yards. The farther you are from the target the more difficult it is to be accurate in your plotting, so you just have to do the best you can. We sometimes pair up and have the second person act as the spotter, then switch every 5 balls. Hope that helps!